Rio Ferdinand: England’s Euro 2020 team have even better attacking options than the ‘Golden Generation’
Despite his 81 caps in England, one of Rio Ferdinand’s most vivid international memories came when he wasn’t even playing.
Ferdinand, 17, was one of a handful of promising youngsters brought in by the FA to take part in manager Terry Venables’ Euro 96 camp. And part of his Three Lions experience was traveling with the team’s coach for England games through a sea of staunch home fans.
It’s a vision that has remained with the West Ham defender ever since – and it’s a vision he hopes to see repeated this summer when Wembley host England’s three group matches ahead of five knockout matches. , including the semi-finals and the final.
“I was there at Euro 96, I was going to the stadium in my home turf, I was going to Wembley and those moments have been stuck in my memory for a long time since those days, very clearly,” said Ferdinand. FourFourTwo.
“All the passion of the fans lining the streets as the coach passed, seeing all this fanfare is something else I wish I could see [again]. And given that we’ve been through the pandemic, that would be a good end to that – so fingers crossed guys are giving us something to scream at. “
Despite dreams of a happy comeback for England this summer, Ferdinand has no illusions about how difficult it will be for Gareth Southgate’s promising young side to even reach the final stages of Euro 2020.
As a member of the saints “Golden Generation” 2000s, the former Manchester United center-back is all too aware of how difficult it can be for an England side to keep their promise. Each of the three World Cups he has competed in has ended in disappointment, with quarter-final losses to Brazil in 2002 and Portugal in 2006, the 42-year-old being the closest to international success.
But it’s another England side and Ferdinand believes the current crop might even have the edge over his peers in some aspects of their game.
“I think defensively, my time was stronger when there was consistency in the selections and the staff,” he considers.
“But in terms of attacking zones, there’s a bit more depth with the team now. If you look at the wide players in particular, there are six players out there – Mount, Foden, Grealish, Sterling, Rashford, Sancho – and you can pick two and you will be very happy with that.
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So, given the embarrassment of attacking the riches Southgate has at his disposal, who would Ferdinand name in his starting XI?
“I don’t know, man,” he mused. “I think the most important thing is Gareth [Southgate] make these players understand that “you are all going to play a role and you are all going to be important”. And whoever starts the game against Croatia does not necessarily mean that he will start the next game and the game beyond.
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While England can boast a lot of quality in their ranks, so do several of the other great European nations, with France and Portugal – both of which are possible opponents for the Bottom 16 if the Three Lions are at the top of their group – also brimming with talent. .
Add to that England’s only victory in the round of 16 of a European Championship thanks to a rare shootout success against Spain in 1996 and it is clear that predictions of glory could be premature.
“I think we’re going to come out of the group stages quite comfortably, but then I think we could get into a side of the draw where we face one of the teams from the death group. [consisting of France, Portugal, Germany and Hungary], which is going to be difficult, ”adds Ferdinand.
” To give [a target] of ‘we’ll get to a semi-final or a final or whatever’ is difficult because there are too many good teams to start predicting… It’s going to be a good tournament, but at the same time I wouldn’t like not to put more pressure on England than necessary.
“It’s about being able to handle the opportunity, it’s tactically organized the right way so that you can execute. Sometimes we go into these games with a little trepidation, maybe even a little negative, conservative – it will be interesting to see with Gareth if we can go without the chains.
“Yes, you need balance, but also unleash some of the talent in the attacking zones to go and produce their best football.”
Whatever tricks Southgate has up their sleeve to lead England to glory, they’ll take a few to rival a prank Ferdinand fell victim to as the tournament approached.
As part of a Heineken campaign for Euro 2020, the ex-England star was created by his Welsh rival Robbie Savage as part of a bogus Hall of Fame admission which included Ferdinand immortalized with a painting of him. The only problem was that he portrayed the former English skipper as a proud Welshman and forced him to save face during the big reveal.
“I was asked to do a virtual sit-in for an artist, which I found weird anyway, and then I had to go see the finished article of the painting they had made of me. When it was unveiled it was a photo of me draped in a Welsh flag, ”says Ferdinand.
“Then I saw at the bottom of the poster that there was a camera and I thought ‘it’s being filmed’ so I just wanted to be a little nicer and more polite. This politeness is probably the thing that killed me and then obviously Robbie [Savage] come out and I realized it was a liquidation.
Ferdinand is more famous for being the prankster than the victim thanks to his Rio’s World Cup Wind-Ups TV show, when he cheated on several of his English teammates ahead of the 2006 tournament, and he vowed revenge on Savage – no little doesn’t matter how long he has to wait.
The Welshman should be on his guard if Ferdinand’s previous jokes have anything to do with. No one was safe 15 years ago, with England captain David Beckham forced to jump out of a car and run down the streets in Manchester’s Moss Side and a fresh-faced Wayne Rooney dragged into an operation rescue for a young fan’s dog. It’s a long story.
And even though he was the butt of Savage’s prank this time around, Ferdinand says the chance to relive those fun times is a great way to keep everyone involved laughing.
“He [the World Cup Wind-Ups] it was a good laugh and the guys laughed at it, ”he recalls.
“We are talking about these friendly rivalries that are taking place within the framework of this [Heineken] campaign, but also things like that bring people together. Obviously Wales and England there is a rivalry there and Robbie [Savage] and I had a rivalry when we were playing.
“But it’s a friendly rivalry, it’s healthy, we love it and being a part of this campaign with Heineken – who are the official sponsors of Euro 2020 – to talk about the rivalry, bring it back and really get people excited. about that I think that’s a good thing. Obviously with the pandemic it’s hard to create this without fans in the stadium and without that electricity that runs through the stadium when it’s full. “
Although if Ferdinand’s hopes for England glory come true in the Euro final next month, there won’t be any need for pranks to keep that crowd alive.
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